Thursday, August 21, 2008

I am infamous....

A very quick (and woefully unedited) post:

A scan of some of the live-blogs that covered yesterday's conference yielded at least one person who found what I said--that I am not writing in order to serve Israel's hasbara machine and that I write for myself--to be a rather distasteful sentiment. In all sincerity, I can understand why I may have come across this way. In fact, after the panel I went around asking all my friends if everyone thought I was a misanthrope. Please allow me to explain and to offer my apologies for not being more coherant last night.

To be honest, I found both the inclusion of the long PR presentation and the moderator's comments to be somewhat offensive (for lack of a better word). Who the hell are you to tell me what I must do with my blog? Who are you to hijack my blog? Since when did I become your lackey? For that matter, who are you to tell me how I should approach my aliyah?

In my case, I am very conciously not an ideologue. I very conciously think of myself as an immigrant, and not as an "olah" and have done so since the moment I decided to make aliyah. I made this decision because I wanted to give my aliyah a fair chance of succeeding, and came to the conclusion that an "immigrant" mentality would be far more conducive to success than an "olah mentality". The latter term connotates someone who deserves a pat on the back, a welcoming committee complete with a brass band and lots of ass-kissing and handouts (a'la someone should give me a great job because I did this country the great honor of moving here). The former term connotates someone who should be prepared for abuse, being taken advantage of and years of working his ass off to make it in this new place. Less romantic and idealistic? Yes! But it worked for my grandparents in the States and I figured it would do just as well for me here. And indeed, I am at seven years and (B"H) counting.

Ahah! But didn't I know that the panel would be like this? Well, no, I did not. None of us really knew. Nor were we given any advance notice as to what the initial question would be. However, the title of the panel was "building Israel one post at a time". Mind you, it was not "serving Israel's hasbara needs one post at a time". Nor was it even "making aliyah every day" or "how to fulfill your idealistic leanings on your blog".

Nu, but what about building Israel? Hello, I am building Israel. As follows:
1) I live here.
2) I have built a life here. My friends are here.
3) I volunteer here. I give to charity here.
4) I work here and pay gobs of taxes.
5) I vote. I join political parties and (when I have the opportunity) I volunteer with them.
6) I have hobbies--biking, cooking and oh yeah, writing. I write about my life and whatever I have that is interesting to write about.

You see, for me, building Israel is not "making aliyah every day". It is not kiruv. It is not wearing rose-colored glasses. It is not being a part of Israel's hasbara efforts. Instead, it is living a perfectly normal life--that just happens to be in Israel and in Hebrew. It is also why I moved here. I do not want to be an ideologue. I do not want to consiously "on" all the time. I just want to be normal. (Incidentally, the links are just to demonstrate that the organizers knew, or should have known, what they were getting when they invited me).

All that being said, I did enjoy the conference, and look forward to attending next year!

P.S. I should also point out that the very idea of someone hijacking THIS blog is doubly offensive. I mean, I started this blog because I wanted to get my story--what it is like to be a poor, sad, heroic victim of terror ®--out there without having to worry about anyone's agenda or preconceptions. And another thing for those who 1) read my blog and 2) were there last night...did anyone else find it wildly amusing when the moderator started using descriptions of Machane Yehuda on a Friday afternoon as an example of what makes Israel unique? "The shouts of vendors. The children shopping with their Abba for Shabbat". Me: "the friendly neighborhood suicide bomber at the bus stop".


A Soldier's Mother said...


You were you. You were classic you and you spoke very well. I enjoyed it very much and agree with most of what you said (ok, I'm sure there must have been something I disagreed with) but your point was excellent. Simply by living here, we are building this country. What we label it, our purpose for being here, whatever, is irrelevant. We breathe the air, we pay our taxes and we make ourselves better and the country better for our love of it. Is that our goal in coming here to live? Who cares?

Your greatest revenge for what has been in the past is simply life. Should revenge be the goal of your life? No - absolutely not. Your goal should simply be to live (the rest is all gravy). You were great last night...even if Netanyahu refused to pay you!

Benji Lovitt said...

Here is my imitation of me last night: "Did she say 'raped by Hamas'? "

(Five minutes later...)

I think she did!

Good meeting you last night. : ) Hope you had fun! I did!

Anonymous said...

Gila, those who know you love happened to hit upon a moderator who I could have placed money would have turned you off. (He thinks Israeli Baseball is bad...) I was waiting for you to comment on his shuk shpiel. (I wanted to cover my eyes as I saw the train wreck coming)

As for the "one person"...ouch. Such is life, it really would be boring if everyone thought like us hmm?

Anonymous said...

You did a great job!

Anonymous said...

I'm thrilled that you spoke last night - it may have had something to do with your cheering group sitting behind me!!! but your words feel so right as I read your blog.

but I'm not as anti - I kind of like the shuk - used to be my high, maybe it's Yishai's high, maybe he just couldn't think of something better on the spot - I just came back from a trip in Hungary - back to the "normal" life, but last night made me realize how special living with other Jews means - obviously been here long enough to have always felt that, but love hearing it from others as well. And you write it (and say it) so well!!!! Looking forward to reading more.

Klara (no blog yet, maybe one day)

tafka PP said...

Please, just ignore... he was one of thousands watching, and everyone in the room (including the organizers, who I was standing next to as you were speaking) really liked you.

Despite the fact it was held in the Grow-Your-Own-Zionist NBN greenhouse and they couldn't refuse Bibi his hour-long election speech, it was important that they had some speakers who weren't all about the "branding of Israel" and all that... Jazz.

Kudos. And what a *lovely* T-Shirt you were wearing!

Anonymous said...

Dov Bear loves you though I noticed and he carries my seal of approval.

Anonymous said...


For what it's worth, I think you spoke very well. What you said was honest and intelligent, and more in line with the panel topic than the direction the moderator was leading the discussion. And I say this as an unabashed hasbara-nik.

It was a pleasure to meet you last night.

Baila said...

I for one agreed with what you said. I also started my blog just for me, not to sing about the glory of Israel or to garner traffic. I just enjoy doing it.

On the other hand, this was NBN's baby. They have an agenda, they paid for the delicious mango chutney and those bloggers in business class on the latest aliyah flight. So they can say what they want us in the J-blogosphere to say and of course we will all continue to do what we want. For next year they should be more specific about they expect from the panelists.

And they should have thousand island dressing to go with the turkey.

Baila said...

And I B"H when you were counting how many years you've been here.


ilana m said...

Hi Gila,

I watched the conference from work on the webcast, and it was pretty neat to finally see the people whose blogs I've been reading for so long. I just wanted to say that despite the fact that we've never met, I imagined you rolling your eyes as that rosy picture of the shuk on Friday afternoon was depicted. I was thinking... seriously?


Tobie said...

I had not been acquainted with your blog before yesterday, but your speech was a breath of fresh air in an annoyingly preachy, idealistic, la-dee-da conference (not that I did not enjoy it tremendously). The entire time I was sitting there thinking how weird it would be to have a blog with one message that you spend all day pushing out. I mean... it's a bit one-dimensional of a way to live, to the extent that a blog is an extension of the personality.

Like you, I have never really bought into the "aliyah" thing. People keep asking me "how is Israel?" and I'm never sure what to say. 'Crazy holy?' 'Still there?', although of course the proper response is 'amaaaazing'. But of course, it isn't. It's just here . And so are we, and that's about it.

Gila said...

Soldier's mom--nice to get to chat with you again

Benji--Hope you were not too terribly shocked. Glad to see that you recovered your composure quickly. :)

Safranit--I decided to leave his shuk shpiel alone. I had bigger fish to fry. Actually, the funny thing was that I assumed he did not know I was injured there. Then I look at the printout from my blog...and it is my description of myself (Ordinary Joe etc) in which I state that I was injured at Machane Yehuda. Do you suppose he was trying to get a joke out of it? Gosh--did he think about how traumatized I might be? ;P

Steve--honestly, I cannot tell you how glad I am that you were pleased. I was really worried about that--you did so much work to put this together and I was worried that NBN was going to have your head. Or you would have mine.

Klara--Don't apologize!!!! I adore the shuk and will probably be popping by there tomorrow! (Seriously.) I just found it wildly funny that he chose davka that example of life in Israel, up to and including Friday afternoon.

PP--why yes, it was a GORGEOUS shirt! You will not believe the story of how I came to have it! Thanks again for saving me from appearing on camera with foundation all over my front. And that shirt was soooo perfect.

Asher--to get a mention from DovBear is quite an honor--he is one of the real biggies. I think I will buy his book.

Aussie Dave--was thrilled to meet you--I really love your blog. The moderator did seem to take the topic it a bit, no?

Baila--and really spicy mustard. Walla--when you have me for soup, remind me, and I will bring you some thousand island dressing.

MoChassid said...


I reiterate my email comments to you last night. I thought the moderator was silly and that you expressed a feeling that many of us share. I write my blog because writing is what I do. Nothing more, nothing less.

Sadly, I could not read the message on your shirt.

Soccer Dad said...

Gila, you wrote:
You see, for me, building Israel is not "making aliyah every day". It is not kiruv. It is not wearing rose-colored glasses. It is not being a part of Israel's hasbara efforts. Instead, it is living a perfectly normal life--that just happens to be in Israel and in Hebrew. It is also why I moved here.

What better advertisement for making Aliyah is there? And whether you acknowledge it or not, isn't living a normal Jewish life in a Jewish state an aspect of Hasbara?

orieyenta said...

You need make no apologies for simply "being you". No matter where you are or what you say, there will be people that agree with you and some that disagree with you. Good for you that you continue to speak your mind despite those who may not agree with you.

Anonymous said...

I didn't see you at the conference so I can only speak to what you have said in this post.

You said, "I just want to be normal."

Well forgive me but if that was the case you would have stayed where you were.

Moving to Israel was indeed an ideological decision. You moved to a country where it's very existence is being attacked in every direction. Surely the importance of using everything including blogs to promote Israel's interest is high indeed.

Just like every Israeli should consider him or herself a soldier who needs to take personal responsibility for becoming as capable as possible to defend their neighborhood physically should the need arise, every Israel should consider him or herself as serving Israel's hasbara in every interaction with foreigners and with blogs having international reach where anyone one in the world that speaks the language of the blog being able to read it (in this case English one of the most highly understood language in the world) that certainly includes what one chooses to post on ones blog as well as those of others.

That is what it means to be Israeli. That is what Israeli citizens need to do to survive. And it takes every Israeli doing their part for the greater good of the Nation.

Jack Steiner said...

You did just fine.

aliyah06 said...

I thought you were great, and you expressed the sentiments of a great many of us--my blog is for ME. It's my diary, for my friends and family and anyone else who wants, to read and enjoy, or not.

I came to the conference not because I want to make money on WebAds, or promote aliyah, or do hasbara--I came entirely to meet the folks whose blogs I've been reading all these years.

And I literally cringed when the moderator waxed rhapsodic over the souk.....

Unknown said...

Gila, I told you last night, and I'll put it in writing for the record: I agree with you.
As for the Shuk, to paraphrase a well worn expression: The shuk is all things to all people. (Whatever the hell that means.
I appreciate the Arutz 7 guy's point of view, but found it presumptuous and a bit grating. Those of us who blog with no agenda owe no apologies. My blog is mine. And to quote a famous English playwrite: "To thine own self be true."

Batya said...

You were great, you.

I'm so glad I got to meet you at the JBLOGGER - NBN Convention.

YMedad said...

First, pleasure sitting next to you. I couldn't see the front of your T-shirt but the back was a mouthful.

Second, to be honest, I don't think anybody tried to "hijack" whatever. At conferences, the main action is the panelists cirumventing the moderators. It's a time-honored traditon of subtle maneuvering so maybe it was a bit of your abruptness - fully justified from your subjective perspective and fully understanable from any objective viewpoint.

Three, maybe it wasn't all spelled out but with NBN as the major convener, it was obvious that agenda emphasis was to be Aliyah in a positive, upbeat fashion. This wasn't an academic colloquium.
I suggested that next year, or whenever, they try to get a blogger-interested company like Wordpress to pitch in.

And P.S., when commenting at other blogs, it's neat to leave off your own URL of the exact post you are referring to like this: here and here

Have a great life!

Unknown said...

P.S. - I loved the T-shirt. I was deliciously irreverent.

Unknown said...

Ooooooof, out damn typo!
It was, It was It was

Tzipporah said...

Now I feel cheated. I couldn't read the t-shirt on my rinky-dink webcast view. Anyone care to post the content?

Gila, you were sensational. I was thinking, "this woman is great, I wonder who she is," and then you mentioned your name/blog and I did a total double-take.

This may sound kind of lame, but you are so my blogging hero. :)

Risa Tzohar said...

What is so special about you (and your blog) is how you manage to be yourself and not get caught up in all those cliches. Like it or not the fact that talented sane thinking people like you choose to move to Israel and stay here despite really horrible things that happen to them reflects positively on Israel.
I am so glad to have met you and look forward to keeping in contact with you.

Akiva said...

Your candor was refreshing. Yishai, your moderator, had his own agenda. You were not obligated to go along with it, and you clearly didn't.

It was somewhat sad to see some others twist into pretzels to fit the odd over-the-top position the moderator set.

katrina said...

Great post, Gila!

RivkA with a capital A said...

Bummed that I missed it.

I would have heard you (and everyone else in the second panel) if Netanyahu hadn't hijacked the convention for an hour.

What was that???

Anonymous said...


We haven't met and I wasn't well-acquainted with your blog prior to last night's convention but I thought that what you said is likely true for a lot of us: we didn't start blogging specifically to do hasbara, we did it to express ourselves in writing in a public forum/community.

And the topic of the panel was, after all, "building Israel," not "promoting Israel/aliyah."

Though I suppose given that this was an NBN event, it was bound to go off in that direction.

Anonymous said...

fot the benefit of Tzipporah and MOChassid the wording on the front of the shirt is "this year we reclaim Peace". Now, I'm curious as to what was written on the back...

YMedad said...

I am not opening up on Andrew's question. That's Gila's privilege.

sparrow said...

Gila, I just saw a photo of you courtesy of Baila. So nice to see what you look like. You are a bonny lady (forgive the Scottishism!)

tafka PP said...

Ymedad- I know what it said on the back of the T-shirt: FYI, it's a very informative and powerful theatrical piece, as I'm sure you've heard- you and Batya should catch it next time they put it on (in English in Jerusalem- don't bother with the Faltzani Tel Aviv translated version) an added bonus proceeds are always to women's anti-violence organizations.

YMedad said...

Tafka PP,

did I say anything negative?

Gila said...

Back of the shirt= "Eve Ensler's: The Vagina Monologues"

Anonymous said...

dare I ask how the two sides of the shirt are connected (and I don't mean by cotton)? It was a borrowed shirt as well!

tafka PP said...

"I couldn't see the front of your T-shirt but the back was a mouthful."

I guess a "mouthful" could be construed in a whole number of ways :-)

YMedad said...

tafka PP:


women are better than men at multi-tasking anyway.

Anonymous said...


I wanted to get different sides of the spectrum and different viewpoints on that panel. That's what Israel is (a mosaic as someone said), and that's what "Building Israel one post at a time" was supposed to be about.

Who wants to hear the same exact thing from 5 different people?

You can come to my next convention, and maybe I'll even put you on a panel again.